By – Jarrett Riddle

Shutter Review

We’ve all been there: the spooky old house, the inexplicable happenings, and the little drone with a swiveling camera. Wait, what? It’s Fatal Frame meets Big Brother in Shutter from Cosmic Logic. In what would normally be a somewhat overplayed scenario, the developers decided to switch the main character out for a robot. No, not like a Terminator-esque cybernetic organism, but an honest to goodness rolling tripod with a flashlight and flashbulb attached. The question is, is this bizarre protagonist twist enough to make the experience stand out? And if so, is it too much of a change? Read on, and your curiosities may be piqued even further.

There’s been lots of vandalism, property damage, and other hoodlum happenings going on at the old Hemsworth residence at Forest Hill Drive. For unknown reasons, a team of investigators have sent in a drone to find out who or what’s behind all the mischief. You are the lucky one that gets to take control of the robot, and will be communicating with HQ every so often as your little technological buddy uncovers more of the story. Being your BFF in the whole wide world, your contact won’t believe anything that you see or even photograph for most of the game, and will attempt to upgrade your bot in an effort to rid pictures taken of floating orbs and other inexplicable nonsense. Is there more behind these sightings, or are they just a bug in the program? This is a horror game, so it’d be pretty lame if it was the latter.

So the investigation has started but it’s pitch black in here. Oh, turns out you need to flip the generator on to give the place some light. Remember this location, as you’ll be returning to it quite often throughout the game to juice up once again due to frequent power failures. It doesn’t take long upon entering the house that something weird is going on in these parts. If the disembodied laughter of a woman isn’t enough to convince you, maybe multiple appearances of a man’s shadow will. As said before, your partner in this ordeal will not easily believe anything that goes on, but you know better, right?

Shutter Review

The game’s different chapters are divided into chunks of the same gameplay formula: Enter a room, read a letter left by the paranoid owner of the home, and then witness some kind of spooky event before moving onto the next room. In the meantime, you’ll be trying to spot and photograph elements that are out of the ordinary like objects that appear and vanish at random. This is done by switching the default third-person perspective into a first-person view, looking at the area in question, and snapping a shot. The picture can then be sent to headquarters and analyzed. Note that what may seem out of place to you may come off as ordinary to your partner. This is especially true for times when items that are clearly sitting there don’t show up in a picture. Zoinks!

As more letters are read and locations explored, the back story comes into better focus. By the end of the journey, pretty much everything about the situation makes sense. In my opinion, learning more about the history of the house and its occupants makes the game slightly less scary, but somehow better at the same time. A haunted residence is one thing, but one with a dark, mysterious past takes the concept one notch higher. Besides, if the player gets to the end and still wonders what the heck it was all about, that says something negative about the story-telling, so it’s probably for the best that most everything is explained. What helps too is that the narrative is told quite well, with each letter managing to be both creepy and informative.

Shutter’s graphics hold up well against other indie games of the same nature. Except for times of power failure, the setting is just dark enough to be unsettling while also providing enough light for the player to maneuver around. I believe that the atmosphere in the game is actually really well done all around, as I felt a strong sense of tension all the way through the journey. This was the result of not just the impressive visual appearance, but of ambient sounds and voices from those long since passed echoing throughout the halls. You never know what’s going to happen next in the Hemsworth residence.

Being a drone without weapons, it’s easy to hypothesize that this game will favor discovery and story over action. And that would be an accurate guess, as there is no fighting nor gruesome ways to die. This is a plus in my book, since I’m not what you’d call an expert gamer to begin with and would probably succumb to the forces of the dead around every corner had the game been designed differently. In addition, dying repeatedly and restarting just takes away from immersion in my book, so I must say I’m glad the developers took a more adventurous approach to the game’s layout, even though this makes Shutter quite linear and more cinematic than anything.

Shutter Review

Step into a time portal and head straight back to 1996, back from whence the controls of this game draw inspiration. This may sound like an insult, but it really isn’t, as tank movement works well in this setting and makes sense seeing as you’re controlling a robot. The WASD keys roll your explorer back and forth, strafe it from left to right, and swivel its camera head all around. Space bar is held to take pictures and the shift key can be pressed to move a bit faster. The mouse is used to aim the light in a specific direction, and is particularly useful in first-person mode for getting the right angle on objects and events you wish to capture. Menu navigation, including talking to that weirdo back at HQ, is done by using the mouse as well. Everything feels as it should, and I have no complaints about the control scheme.

Only a couple of bugs were encountered during my time with the game. Though they could be possibly be attributed to the strange events taking place, after upgrading my bug tracking bot to version 1.3, I deduced that they are not in fact part of the experience. These included the camera trying to pan away from my droid and some mishaps where something I photographed wasn’t visible or was blocked, only to be viewed normally by my partner and thus progressing the story anyway. These were isolated incidents and didn’t affect the gameplay in the least, so overall Shutter was coded well and shouldn’t give anyone enough problems to quit.

Not that there is enough time to quit, honestly. Shutter is short, almost comically so. A manual save feature isn’t included or needed, with the game autosaving progress at the beginning of each chapter. Really though, the whole thing can easily be beaten in an hour or two, and once completed, leaves little left to do. There’s a few achievements to go after, but the only one that may take some effort to obtain is the one called Left-Shift to Victory. The goal of this achievement is to beat the game in its entirety in less than 9 1/2 minutes. While this may give players something extra to do beyond experiencing the story, I don’t think pointing out the fact that the game can be beaten that fast is a good idea, nor a fun challenge.

Shutter Review

Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?

Shutter is an eerie, immersive, jumpscaring good time. That is, for the very short instance it lasts. At an asking price of $4.99, I find it difficult to recommend paying full price. A game that only lasts an hour and basically has zero replay value may be worth purchasing when on sale, but in the meantime is best left leaving on the ol’ wishlist instead.

Shutter Technical Summary:

Shutter Review

  • Time Played – 2 Hours
  • Widescreen Support – Yes
  • Windowed Mode – Yes
  • Resolution Played – 1920×1080
  • Bugs/Crashes Encountered – Few
  • DRM – Steam
  • System Specs – 3.7 GHz AMD A10-6700, 768MB Radeon 8670D, 8GB RAM
  • Control Scheme – M/KB, 360 Controller
  • Saved Game Location – SteamApps\common\Shutter\Shutter_Data
  • Acquisition Method – Review Copy
  • Availability – Steam
  • Demo – No

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